The semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup have been finalized, after last night’s Group B matches, in which Thailand brushed aside Malaysia 3-0 and Vietnam overcame a goalless first half to beat Laos 4-0.
Thailand, the favourites, will now play Indonesia and Vietnam will play Singapore. This has all been rather predictable, once it turned out the Burmese team were not able to replicate the form they showed last term and Malaysia demonstrated that, despite all their bluster, they remain fundamentally NBG.
It is disappointing that the semi-finals and indeed final (I think the final too) involve two-legged affairs, since this dispels much of the momentum of the tournament and means most of the games are even more defensive than usual. Thailand will keep it tight in Indonesia and so will Singapore in Vietnam. It’s nice for home fans to get their chance to see their teams in action but that does not compensate for the slackening of the tension, in my opinion.
The commentator on the Lao-Vietnam game last night, a guy named Sashi or similar (I could look it up, I suppose) who once score the winning goal for Singapore in a final against Thailand and who appears to play a Trevor Brooking role on the network, observed that some technical aspects had improved in the last two years – for example, forwards better able to hold the ball up when their back was to the goal, but I found it difficult to see much progress. Perhaps Thai efficiency and pressing under Peter Reid is the most noticeable feature. Let us hope the Thai FA treat him better than they did Peter Withe.